Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Seen on Queen st It made me smile - thanks

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

ROI and Activism

ROI stands for Return On Investment, it is a general term that can be used in any sector of human affairs but it is something that is particularly useful in assessing the effectiveness of any particular action. The term is widely used in finance to calculate the gain from an investment. When planning an action, protest or campaign calculating the return on investment is something which should be done regularly.

An example of using ROI could be when planning an action such as a media stunt. The number of hours put into planning the action, building the props, writing the press release carrying out the action etc should be calculated and weighed against the amount of media the action is likely to get. When calculating the number of hours that go into an action calculate the number of hours of everyone involved. A banner drop may take 4 hours to plan 2 hours to go and have a look at the site 3 hours to paint the banner 4 hours to get ready and actually do it and 20 hours in the court and jail system. If this banner drop was planned and carried out by 4 people then the entire process could take 132 hours. Once the investment is calculated the return can be estimated, for the banner drop it might give you 45 seconds on the news and one or two pieces in the paper. This could constitute a high or low ROI depending on circumstances. 45 seconds on the news a week before the election could be vital. If it’s a company that does not depend on its public image (eg Fonterra) then it might be a negligible ROI.

In Iraq insurgent groups are getting ROI’s of thousands of hours to one by targeting infrastructure such as high voltage power lines, hitting the system where it is weakest and causing a cascade of failures. With this approach insurgents are capable of being highly effective with low tech weaponry and low man hours. The same sort of thinking should guide our actions as activists, finding where the system is weakest and hitting there to cause delays and problems that form a positive feedback loop with each failure increasing the scope of the failure of the next part of the system.

A New Zealand example of extremely well targeted action is the blocking of train tracks by Save Happy Valley activists. This action by targeting train tracks caused economic damage probably far in excess of the hours put in by the activists (I have no idea how long it took to plan and carry out).This action also managed to get press at the same time.

Direct action including can be assessed with ROI in mind, with expected or actual damage weighed against time taken and the possible penalties. If an action such as a blockade can cause hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage with moderate penalties then this action may be far superior to “cooler” actions such as vandalism that cause low amounts of damage and take a substantial amount of time to carry out.

Lobbying, petition signing and voting can all be weighed with ROI in mind, just because you working within the system doesn’t mean your not being effective.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Climaction - A brief Critique

Late last year an unlikely coalition of greenies, socialists, left wing activists and the occasional autonomist came together to discuss what we could do to effectively stop climate change. At the first meeting it was decided that the aims of the group were to achieve free and frequent public transport and to move beyond kyoto - a 90% reduction in emissions is one figure used. Direct action was thrown around and their was an agreement that "we signed up to building a mass movent committed to direct action. The group had a distinctly left/green tinge to it and aimed to model itself after such historical figures as Martin Luther King. The word revolution has been used a lot, but only revolution in a non violent public friendly sort of way.

As a first action it was decided by the group that a street party on queen street to mark the international day of action for climate change would be useful in getting people involved and raising profile. During the planning meetings their was a clear split in tactics the majority of the group were in favour of widely advertising the time and location. They also refused to engage in discussion as to what would occur if they came up against state resistance to their event. A few of us on the other side believed that secrecy would give us an advantage over the police and that planning for how to actually hold the road was probably a good idea. Those that did attempt to engage in dialogue about a potential police response were treated as if we wanted to encourage violence and have been accused of favouring "conspiratorial politics". Planning outside of meetings was attacked and an attempt was made to frame the debate as "elitist vanguardism" vs "democratic organising"

Now this is a split in tactics and I think both sides have very valid points, things such as advertising the location widely allows the state to plan for traffic disruption and allows the organisers to potentially get more people along. Not advertising the location and instead advertising a meeting point gives you the element of suprise and gives you more time to get some sort of blockade in place and means that you are not as reliant on the police to let it happen. What wasnt so valid was the unwillingness to plan for state opposition, blockades were never planned for and to my knowledge what would happen if police tried to move us was also never discussed. At the same time a key organiser had approached me and asked me to put together a secretive crew to organise blockades on the day, this organiser was one of the people who was stressing the need for openess and letting everyone at meetings know everything.

The benefits of organising in a room with 30 or so people many of whom are opposed to direct action versus organising in affinity groups of like minded people is a long running debate, I do not however think this is what the division in tactics was about. Framing the debate as this is seemed to be a disingenuous attempt to not talk about what tactics were to be used.

On the day of the action we had around 300 people, no blockades and to my knowledge no plan for what to do if the cops wouldnt let it go ahead. The cops by this stage had decided to let it go ahead, this was evidenced by the perhaps dozen cops present, if they had decided not to let it go ahead we sould have had the 30 or more police common at anti war marches. This decision had obviously been before the day and our numbers in my opinion probably played a small role in that decision. If the cops had been serious about stopping us one line of the TPU (Team Policing Unit) would have been sufficient. Any attempt to take the street against state wishes would have resulted in many arrests and probably would have failed within 10 - 20 minuts. Even if we could get onto the street a line formation as discussed in a post below would have been sufficient to move us off the street or down the road.

To take a quote from the police liason for the event " the police took a "low-key approach" - those were their words" the action on November the 4th happened because the police let it happen. I was wrong in that I thought the police would oppose it and I am very glad I was wrong. However next time the police may not let it happen and if they do not then we will not be in a good if we think an action allowed by the state is the same as resisting the state. This would leave ourselves very vulnerable for when the state specifically the police attempt to stop us. A movement "committed to direct action" that refuses to take the police into account is a movement setting itself up for a major fall.

Their are several approaches that could have worked for the street party on queen st one of which was to mobilise enough people to overwhelm any state response. This was the approach taken by the organisers of the day but it is not the reason the day was successful. Another approach is to do an action the police are ok with - this is the reason the day was successful in my opinion. Tactics around resisting police such as blockades vary widely and their is little shortage of ideas or examples from oversease - the reason I think these should be considered is that the could allow us to be more effective with lower numbers of people.

Future actions

Climaction is now discussing the possibility of a reclaim the streets style party on the junction of k road and queen street. This is a substantial arterial root and to block the road off entirely would cause major traffic disruption, to my knowledge their are no diversions which could be easily put in place. A stret party here if the police decided not to let it happen would need much more people than the action on queen street to be successful. It would also require either barricades to prevent the police pushing people down K road and then onto the sidewalk or it would need a lot of people willing to sit down in front of the police and get arrested. Malcolms quote "the next climaction carnival will be bigger, and the is the key - the numbers. They can't arrest us all!" Is worrying as it does not reflect the reality of what could happen. The police only need to arrest those willing to resist their line formation, if only 5 or 6 anarchists and autonomists are willing to resist then that is all they need to arrest to push us off the road. Numbers are not the key to success if those people have not planned as to how they will hold the road.

Using a physical blockade such as a tripod or people locked on to cars is a key factor in reclaim the streets events overseas. These objects make it very time consuming and impractical for the police to move the event on. More importantly they make the standard line formation used by police to move people ineffective as the police are confronted with a physical obstacle which they cannot shove off the road. This breaks their formation and with lock ons or tripods takes a long time to move off the road. Using blockades would give us a much higher chance of success when the police oppose us and would take some of the power as to the success or failure of the event out of police hands.

Climaction has displayed a almost morally puritanical approach to violence, as if by not discussing violence we will never have to face violence. This taking the high moral ground is fine as long as we continue to engage in state sanctioned acts of symbolic protest but the day we attempt to halt climate change through direct action we will discover that all the moral puritanism in the world will not save us. I have not gone into the symbolic nature of the protests or how I think a mass movement is probably not the ideal strategy, for a very well writen paper which covers such things see An Anarchist Position Piece on the Save Happy Valley campaign . I will blog in future about the usefulness of secrecy and the Return On Investment (ROI) that certain protests actions may give using climaction as an example because it typifies many traits common in main stream environmentalism.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Anti Civilisation Ideology

Recently Anarchafairy posted on the failure of anti civ ideology having not read or listened to anybody talking about civilization for a while I did not give a particularly good response on what civilisation is or why I oppose it. After listening to Derrick jenson recently I thought I would paraphrase him.

According to Derrick Jenson civilization can be defined both historically and linguistically by the growth of city’s. According to his reasoning, as city’s denude their surroundings of resources they must import resources. This importation of resources means that by their very nature city’s are for the most part unsustainable as they will continue to denude an ever larger area of resources. As they depend on the importation of resources they must also rely on violence, as there will come a time when cities will not be able to get what they need through trade or peaceful means. When this time comes they will be forced to use violence to get what they need to continue.

This is the case for our entire civilization – forced to denude ever greater areas just to survive and reliant on violence to get these resources for example land or oil.

To reverse this ever growing denuded area and global inequalities in wealth there is a need to minimize the forced transportation of resources. This means making city’s self sufficient and moving people back to places where they can produce their own food. As long as our lives are dependant on transporting food, oil, metals around the globe the state will rely on violence to get these things. This is why I am fundamentally opposed to civilization as I have defined it above.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A study by the world's leading experts says global warming will happen
faster and be more devastating than previously thought.

A draft copy of the Fourth Assessment Report of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, obtained by The Observer, shows the frequency
ofdevastating storms - like the ones that battered Britain last week -
will increase dramatically. Sea levels will rise over the century by around
half a metre; snow will disappear from all but the highest mountains; deserts
will spread; oceans become acidic, leading to the destruction of coral
reefs and atolls; and deadly heatwaves will become more prevalent.

The impact will be catastrophic, forcing hundreds of millions of
people to flee their devastated homelands, particularly in tropical, low-lying
areas, while creating waves of immigrants whose movements will strain
the economies of even the most affluent countries.

The most likely outcome of continuing rises in greenhouses gases will
be to make the planet a further 3C hotter by 2100, although the report
acknowledges that rises of 4.5C to 5C could be experienced. Ice-cap
melting, rises in sea levels, flooding, cyclones and storms will be an
inevitable consequence.

mankind's industrial emissions have had five times more effect on the
climate than any fluctuations in solar radiation. We are the masters of
our own destruction,

The report reflects climate scientists' growing fears that Earth is
nearing the stage when carbon dioxide rises will bring irreversible
change to the planet.

From The Guardian, Here
Rent a mob for hire in germany here

Urban scout I dont know what the hell to make of it but its amusing here

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Just a post to regather my thoughts

Where we are at as a civilisation is a result of the exploitation of high return on investment (ROI) energy sources, an adaptable intelligent species suited to social organising and a diversity rich planet with a fairly stable climate.

Agriculture and large areas of resource rich sparsely populated land have allowed human populations to sky rocket in the past several hundred years. In the industrial age fossil fuels have been recruited to produce our food resulting in a situation where several times more energy is put into producing food than comes out of it. Fossil fuel based fertilisers and biocides have propped up monoculture's and have with machinery allowed for over half the worlds populations to be crammed into citys. This dense concentration of people and cheap energy has resulted in ever increasing levels of complexity and has allowed large numbers of people to live resource rich lives.

Unfortunately the ways of farming we rely on have always destroyed our soils with deserts dogging our footsteps wherever our current style of agriculture has moved. Deforestation for agriculture, fuel, timber etc has changed much of the worlds climate and fossil fuels have a kick back - global warming.

Without fossil fuels to prop up our agricultural systems they will collapse - for most of the worlds grain producing regions this collapse will be largely irreparable in the mid term future. Without fossil fuels and facing food and water shortages all major nation states will invariably collapse. With changing weather patterns agriculture will become more and more difficult and with the worlds carrying capacity dropping quickly large scale civil disruption is inevitable.

Alternatives have been developed, deserts can be reclaimed and climate change can be survived. Local forms of organising and control of resources can provide workable alternatives to centralised control. People are not inherently evil or stupid - they have to go through many years of training institutions and fragmented homes to create that and even then its never completely successful.

Where we are now is a product of a long chain of events - its not something inevitable mystical or evil. Where we go from here is also based on physical realities, unfortunately a lot of those realities are negative. As environmentalists we must fight with these realities in the back of our mind, we must see the chain of events to understand why things are how they are and how we can be most effective.

Fighting against things such as fossil ful use without realising we are calling for a global collapse of all the worlds economys is a waste of our and my time. If we believe what we say we do about how fucked things are then we can never ever ever have the governments agreeing with us. And it is my opinion that the public is so reliant on these current systems that they will fight to defend them until alternatives are developed and they are no longer reliant on things as they are.

The latest issue of Unity talked about climate change for a hundred pages and forgot to mention that industry and large scale civilisation will have to be ended to avert large scale climate change. This is symptomatic of the wider environmentalist movement - so wrapped up in our desperate struggles to save the patches of land around us we do not have time to identify the train of events leading up to the present day. And this is a train which cannot be stopped only derailed and when it derails due to a breakdown in its workings or some dynamite on the tracks people will get hurt.
Radical Youth Hui a brief report back

This past weekend was the Radical Youth hui, held in the depths of onehunga in a converted factory. The Hui had a decent number of people attending considering a last minute change in venue and challenges due to holidays. A wide range of people some completely new to activism and some with years of experience were in attendance travelling from around the country to attend.

Up to 25 people at a time took part in a wide range of workshops such as direct action, radical cheerleading, organic gardening, introduction to anarchism, climate change etc. All those taking workshops were well prepared and clued up and all of us learnt new information and got a glimpse of issues which we hadnt really considered before. A few hiccups and miscommunications occured with scheduling but nothing that could not be worked out next time.

During the strategy session at the end of the second day a long term division became apparent around the future direction of Radical Youth. Whether to move out of schools into university or to try and hand the group over to a new group of energetic, angry young people was debated. After the strategy session one of the cofounders of the group posted a piece entitled "Radical Youth, April 2005 - January 2007, Rest in Peace" the accuracy of this post will be left to be seen but I certainly think their is a need for a activist group driven by teenagers - whether radical youth can fit this role in its current form is debatable but certainly not as fixed as this post seemed to make out.

The highlights of the weekend for me were meeting new people, food not bombs and watching videos projected onto a movie screen size wall. That a conference of young activists even happened in Auckland is hugely inspiring to me and I want to sincerly thank all those that travelled from around Auckland and New Zealand to attend. A lot of people put work into making this happen and everyone at the hui contributed to its success, I hope this is the first of many youth organised conferences and skill sharing weekends.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Border ball

America vs Mexico volley ball played across the US/Mexican border with some nice political comment in it

For more background on border ball check out

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Interesting post on protest strategy.

Anarchafairy has a really interesting post titled Happy Valley and a Divergence in Strategy it is a well argued critique of relying on lobbying the public and those in power.
Our main argument was that political lobbying had to be stopped, and that a
strategy of direct action was the only tactic left. We argued this from both
very pragmatic and long-term angles. Pragmatic in the sense that every
possible legal and political barrier had been cleared by state-owned mining
company Solid Energy:

While I agree with the main thrust of the post that political lobbying and high energy publicity stunts should not be relied upon to bring about change I do not think that publicity stunts should be stopped altogether. Direct action like the post seems to be advocating would bring about a swift and sharp state response and those involved would quickly find themselves unable to carry out actions in future. With the current state of activism in New Zealand it it highly unlikely that direct action could ever seriously hope to stop something like a coal mine. Because of this I think direct action - even highly serious direct action should be part of a well planned media campaign.

Using the media to spread images of serious direct action and tying publicity stunts in with a strong campaign on the ground is vital in gaining public support and gaining sympathy for activists when they are inevitably caught.

I particularly like this bit.

This is why I was rather stunned to see, once again, a mere media stunt that
risked arrests and required significant energy proposed at the end of December.
And it turns out that even in this respect it predictably failed: banner drops
are old news and it received little to no mainstream coverage in the press.

With Climaction preparing to spend hundreds of hours building a giant trojan cow I am left to wonder who these actions are for and why they take place. Banner drops can be a good way to get press and require few people but spending a large amount of time generating elaborate props just for a few minutes on the news seems to be a poor use of time and money.

In summary I largely agree with Anarcha fairys post and think it is required reading but think that direct action should always be paprt of a media campaign to get the most psychological and physical impact from any action.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Basic Police Manual for Protests

I have decided to repost an entire section of a police training manual on crowd control because i think it is particularly useful in giving an insite to police thinking. Original available from Highlighitng added for points i thought were particularly interesting.


Commanding Officers of DoD installations have authority to restrain or remove from the installation those persons who disrupt operations. Base police may be called on to control and contain civil disturbances that threaten the installation. A basic understanding of the behavior of crowds and techniques for handling large groups of dissidents may allows the base police to accomplish this mission. Although civil disobedience is not as prolific as it once was, it still exists and base police need to be ready to counter the measures used by those who hope to gain notoriety for their cause through civil disobedience.


Civil Disturbances

Civil disturbances most often occur when participants in mass acts of civil disobedience become antagonistic toward authority. In the extreme case, this form of protest may include criminal acts. But in any form, civil disturbance is prejudicial to public and order.
Civil disturbances may arise for any number of causes to include:

Political grievances
Urban economic conflicts
Community unrest
Terrorist acts
Foreign influences

Civil disturbances usually, but not always, occur at places symbolic of a particular grievance, near the cause of the grievance, or close at hand to an aggravated crowd. In picking where to demonstrate, activists traditionally consider:

A place where activists know, or think they know, where nuclear weapons are developed, built, transported, or stored.

A government facility to which a protesting group attaches a symbolic value to, or a connection with, a protested activity.

Installations in urban areas where they are likely to find sympathy due to unrelated conflicts, labor disputes, or political struggles.

Any DoD installation in a foreign country.

Anything that is a symbol of the United States government.


The Crowd

The basic component necessary for a civil disobedience is a crowd.

A casual crowd generally has no common bonds other than the event that brought them together.
Cohesive crowds have a common bond of interest and purpose. They are planned.
Expressive crowds come together to deliver a message.
Aggressive crowds are likely to erupt in unlawful acts.

If the crowd's law abiding collective behavior breaks down, and they have a common cause, civil disobedience is likely to erupt. Civil disobedience is likely if:

When a crowd gathers to air grievances, it transfers its anger from the issue to those people associated with the issue.

When the crowd swells uncontrollably from bystanders.

When agitators incite the crowd to acts of violence.
When the crowd's behavior becomes irrational, and it becomes a mob.
When a crowd consists of two or more opposing groups.

The emotional stimulation and sense of protection while being a crowd and unleash impulsive behavior usually restrained by individuals such as rage and aggression. The emotional excitement of being in a crowd is a key element in the formation of civil disobedience behavior. At the same time the crowd provides people with a sense of unity, excitement, and justification for criminal behavior.

An extremely dangerous situation occurs if the crowd begins to panic. This panic can be caused when the crowd feels threatened and believes their only avenue to safety is to flee. When engaging in crowd dispersal operations, police must be aware of this and give no cause for the crowd to believe that escape routes are limited or blocked in any way. When this fear is coupled with the police using crowd dispersal chemical agents, those not moving fast enough to suit all may be trampled to death.

Crowd Tactics

Crowds may employ a wide variety of non-violent tactics.

Verbal abuse, and name-calling.
Conversation with police to distract them or gain sympathy.
Forming human barricades to impede traffic by sitting down in roads or at the entrance to buildings.
Trespassing on government property in an attempt to force mass arrests and gain notoriety through the media.
Chaining or handcuffing themselves to objects or to each other.

Crowds may also employ violent tactics, which can be extremely destructive. Physical attacks may center on people and property.

Throwing missiles such as rocks, bricks, pipes, bottles filled with gasoline or balloons filled with paint, urine, of feces.
Throwing firecrackers that have been dipped in glue and coated with BBs or small nails.
Firing weapons at police.

Police Operations

The initial task in controlling a disturbance is to isolate those creating the disturbance from those not yet actively involved. This can be accomplished by:

Identifying those needing to be isolated.
Sealing off the area they occupy.
Use barricades, ropes, truck, buses, barbed wire and other field expedient devices to impede pedestrian traffic.

Establish foot patrols around the area to seal it off. These should be set up so that two lines of forces are utilized. One line faces the demonstrators to contain them, and the other line faces away from the demonstrators to keep others out and protect the inner line of personnel.
The objective in taking such action is to:

Prevent disorder from spreading.
Move uninvolved personnel from the area.
Prevent unauthorized or innocent personnel from entering the area.
Prevent the escape of personnel who are attempting to escalate the disturbance.

Four Available Options to Control Demonstrators

Monitoring involves observation of a crowd and collecting data on crowd size, location, mood and the development of the situation. While monitoring, police should establish communication with crowd leaders to convey interest. Monitoring is appropriate when harsher action is not feasible or when the situation has not escalated to a violent situation.

Containing limits a crowd to the area they are occupying and prevents the disorder from spreading. Containment serves to limit outsiders from joining the demonstration and is necessary if it appears that demonstrators will need to be apprehended. Containment can be accomplished by using barricades, crowd control formations, or other types of physical barriers.

Blocking a crowd physically denies its ability to advance. Blocking may be necessary to protect a building or facility that is a potential or actual target of the demonstrators. Crowd control formations are used to block.

Dispersal may be used to break up a demonstration. Routes of dispersal must be controlled to prevent the spread of lawlessness. Initially, apprehensions should not be made unless absolutely necessary. After most of the crowd is dispersed operations may need to be followed by apprehensions of small groups still active in the area. The use of proclamations shows of force, crowd control formations and/or riot control agent are effective in crowd dispersal.

Whatever method is employed, certain things are common to all of the above techniques.
The crowd must be provided with an avenue of escape.

Care must be taken to ensure that crowd control forces are not over extended.
No attempts to trick or deceive the crowd should be made.

Strict discipline must be maintained within the ranks of the crowd control forces.

Crowd Control Formations

Line Formation.

Line formations are used to push a crowd back, or defensively to protect access to a threatened area. Prior to giving any signals for the formation, the forces must count off. If using arm signals because of crowd noise, the commander should raise both arms until they are horizontal and extended with the palms down. If using verbal commands, the commander gives the command, "Line Formation, Move."

Upon the command being given:
The baseman moves to a point indicated by the commander.
Even numbered officer's form a straight line to the right and even with the baseman.
Odd numbered officers form a straight line to the left and even with the baseman.
This should result in officers forming a straight line and facing the crowd.
Execution is then as follows.
Officers draw their batons and assume port arms.
Using steps with their weak side foot only, officers take a single step toward the crowd while giving the command, "Move," in unison.
Officers drag their strong side foot until it is even with the weak side foot.
Officers continue this process until the crowd disperses.

Echelon Formation

The echelon formation is used to move a crowd either to the right or left. To give an arm signal, the commander raises one hand to 45 degrees above horizontal and the other hand to 45 degrees below horizontal. As the commander is facing the crowd, the lower hand indicates the direction in which the crowd is to be moved. If using verbal commands, the commander will give either the command, "Echelon Right, Move," or "Echelon Left, Move," depending on whether the crowd is to be moved to the right or left.

Upon the command being given:
The baseman moves to a point indicated by the commander.
Even numbered officers form a line on the base man with each officer standing either one step in front of the officer to his/her left, or one step behind the officer to his left.
Odd numbered officers move to the left of the baseman and do just the opposite of the officers on the right.
This should result in a slanted line of officers, slanted to either the right or left depending on the predetermined direction in which the crowd is to be dispersed.
Execution is the same as in the line formation.

Wedge Formation

The wedge formation is used for penetration and splitting the crowd apart. If the wedge formation is used, there must be at least two unobstructed escape routes available to the crowd, one to the right and one to the left. If using arm signals, the commander extends both arms downward at 45 degrees from horizontal. If using verbal commands, the commander gives the command, "Wedge Formation, Move."

Upon the command being given:
The baseman moves to a position indicated by the commander.
Odd numbered officers align themselves to the base man's right, each officer being one step to the rear of the officers on his/her left.
Even numbered officers align themselves to the base man's left, each officer being one step to the rear of the officer on his/her right.
This should result in officers forming a wedge or V with the baseman being the point man.
Execution is the same as other crowd control formations.

Final Thoughts

In any crowd control formation operations, it is absolutely imperative that each officer knows their assignment and rigidly performs their mission. Officers are never to get out of line. Once the line is broken, it becomes easy for the crowd to penetrate the line.

If apprehensions are anticipated, a special arrest team should closely follow the crowd control formation
. Officers on the line encounter someone needing to be apprehended, they should merely move that individual behind the line and the arrest team should immediately take that person into custody. If anticipated numbers of persons to be apprehended warrants, a booking bus should drive slowly behind the formation. As the arrest team takes the person into custody, the person is then placed on the bus and the formation can resume their advance.

Police and Swarm Tactics

A useful example of how the police try and beat swarm warfare comes from Alexander the Great. His forces were up against Scythian archers on horseback which could move quickly and attack his heavily armoured infantry with impunity, attacking from a distance and dispersing before Alexander’s forces could engage them in battle. To counter these archers, Alexander used his soldiers to create terrain in which he could entice the Scythians in and then surround them and force them into direct combat.

The police like Alexander are constantly trying to surround us and prevent us from moving freely. At protests they will surround a march and at larger scale events they will erect crowd control fencing to force activists into positions where the police can directly engage protesters and so they can monitor where the activists are moving. Cutting off the ability of activists to swarm allows the state to concentrate its forces where the activists are moving to and creates the kind of standoff which is so typical of major meetings such as the WTO where the protesters corralled and controlled, end up facing heavily armed riot police.

A swarm offensive can, if things are on the protesters’ side, be used to break through police lines and can be used to carry out daring protests even when police may be in high numbers throughout the city. Repeated swarms can form pulses which tire the police, and if varying strength pulses occur, can leave the police in a situation where they do not know whether the next major offensive will be a minor pulse or a huge deluge of people. This element of randomness is key to preventing the state from knowing where to deploy its forces.

Key to swarm strategy is going where the enemy aren’t and staying a few steps ahead of the enemy. It wont result in spectacular scenes of police beating activists but can allow for highly successful action.

If everyone participating in the swarm offensive is hooded and dressed completely in black marching in formation it becomes pretty easy for the police to identify who is involved and where they are going, allowing police normally using cars or motorbkikes to get in front of the protesters and divert them from the target to a place where the activists can be safely picked off one by one.

This kind of thing is evident during the many marches every year up Queen St. Police knowing some key protesters are likely to lead the marchers into the offices and buildings of various multinationals are constantly talking on their radios and moving quickly to try and identify splinter groups from the march. If one is identified, police immediately move to in front of the building, lock arms or form a line and try and deflect the activists. Later snatch squads will be used to pick off any perceived leaders in an attempt to prevent any such events occurring during the march. This normally triggers a confrontation during attempted de arrests or protection of those activists targeted and more arrests normally follow.

Swarming is just a name for something that we do anyway but I believe that identifying why we do it and how it works can be of a significant benefit to us all.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Swarming or pulse tactics

Swarm warfare is where one side has the ability to bring their forces to one point conduct an offensive act and then disperse before the enemy can muster its strength. It is a useful tactic for activists to use because it allows activists to beat state forces which may be far strongest but which are likely to be dispersed over a wide area.

In swarm warfare a lightly armed highly mobile force such as you average activist is at a major advantage over a moderately armed police force. The factors needed for successful swarm warfare include:

A high level of mobility
Good knowledge of the terrain
Ability to hit the enemy from a distance
Ability for fast decision making
Knowing when to disengage and disperse

A real life example of swarm tactics would be the infamous McDonalds storm in that occurred after the 2004 may day march. Those involved in the storm in were widely dispersed and largely invisible to the police officers that fanned out after the march to try and work out where we were going. At a prearranged time the activists converged almost simultaneously on the McDonalds and began a rowdy occupation – so far so good. Inside the restaurant protesters chanted made noise and had a good time.

After approximately 10 or more minutes the police had sufficient numbers to begin to attempt to retake the McDonalds. Bringing substantial police numbers and paddy wagons. The police responded to the occupation in a typical anti swarm fashion they formed lines at either end of the block of queen st and marched down corralling everyone into one place – this is used to prevent the activists from dispersing. They then surrounded the front of the restaurant and began to enter the restaurant arresting as they went.

If swarm tactics were being used the activists would have kept an eye on the police numbers and would have left the restaurant as soon as police were observed to be amassing. They could have then moved on to do other protests around Auckland as the group decided. This ability to disengage far before the battle turns against the activists frustrates the police and lowers arrests dramatically, it relies on discipline by the activists not to fight for the hell of it and having lookouts or pre determined times to disengage.

Working in our favour is widespread electronic communications this allow activists to share information about police numbers and whereabouts and allows the activists to swarm and regroup to swarm again quickly and easily. Due to the hierarchical nature of the police decision making it is thought that activists may be able to make decisions and carry out actions before the police are even able to decide how to respond let alone get enough police to arrest the activists involved.

Another this time highly successful use of swarm tactics was the G20 protests in Australia where a relatively small number of activists moved from ANZ bank to ANZ bank carrying out protests and effectively shutting down every ANZ branch in the Melbourne city center. By moving quickly they were able to stay one step ahead of the police and prevent large scale arrests.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Netwar in the emrald city, WTO protests tactics.

A few weeks ago i came across a really well written report on why the 1999 protests against the WTO protests in seattle were so successful. The report identifies a number of factors including inadequate police numbers, semi autonomous cells which were hichly networked via electronic communications and could respond quickly to changes in police tactics, blockades which prevented police from moving freely, geography which was conducive to successful blockades as well as political ineptitude.

It has been frequently pointed out that the key to the kind of conflict us activists end up fighting (known as fourth generation or 4G warafare) is the spread of information and the spread and adoption of successful tactics and strategies. Their is no need to reinvent the wheel every protest and a bit of reading and looking for what works oversease can be highly useful to us.

The report is available in zine form with graphics here

Or in its original form here

I will put up a few posts about swarm tactics over the next few weeks but for those who want to know more the rand website and have substantial amounts of information.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Sorry for my sporadic posting lately despite the break im quite tired at the moment, anyway here are a few thoughts playing through my mind as we head into a new year. Apologies if they dont make much sense.

New Zealand has a growing economy, a growing middle class and a high level of consumpion/lifestyle. The civilisation we live in continues to grow unabated and environmental degradation not only continues but is snowballing. We are only a few years away from important tipping points where the effects of global extinctions, resource depletion and climate change begin to shape our realities.

Despite all this normal life will prevail for most people for quite a while, the chances of sudden catastrophic collapse no matter how much some of us may hope for the otherwise are remote. We are stuck with civilisation for the forseeable future, this makes our choices as to how we fight all the more important and at the same time all the more important. But we are up against a civilisation reliant on destruction that has roots thousands of years long.

The time is wrong for a revolution, our conditions are simply too good for the average person to be benefitted by an otherthrow of our society. And as humans we have become completely alienated from all that is natural and free. We dont need another campaign or piece of legislation we require a deep change in how we experience life. Iv got no idea how this culture is to change I think that people will not change willingly but I hold out hope that this may not be true.
This is a fight we are not likely to win and every environentalist i speak to seems to know it. Those of us involved in fighting for the beings on this planet humans and nonhuman carry a heavy burden - that the time to act to fight is now that their has never been a more pressing need to stand up for what we believe in but that the odds against us appear insurmountable.
Im not sure what the effect of our actions will be but i am certain that the time to stand up for what we belive in is now and that even though our actions may appear small now that they matter.

Image from

Monday, January 08, 2007

Growing potatoesThe potatoes are planted in 10cm deep rows about 45cm apart around september. The potatoes should be small/moderate in size and should be disease free. They can be planted from about August - October.The potatoes are then covered with the soil from the rows.Once the potatoes start to break through the surface soil is mounded over the tips, this is important to getting a good harvest as most of the potatoes will form in the mounds above surface level. It is also a really good form of weed control.The rows are harvested with a fork carefully to prevent injury to the potatoes, potatoes are harvestable when the tops die back and brown off.We grew a pretty wide range of maori potatoes this year (over 20 varieties) and their colours range from hot pink right through to blackish bluish varietis. The tastes and textures of these varities are quite an experience after eating bland white potatoes all your life.

This is one of my favourite varieties, I have it growing wild through my forest garden and i consistenly get good harvests from it.

Economics of growing potatoes
The depressing thing is no matter how hard i work or how good my technique is I will never ba able to provide organic maori potatoes at a price the average poor person in my street would buy them at. This is because my potatoes are grown with human labour whereas those in the supermarket have fossil fuels doing all the work. Mechanised farming with straight lines as far as the eye can see and a harvesting machine crewed by immigrants on the minimum wage means that my potatoes will only be available to an elite of Auckland society.

If the price of oil went through the roof on the other hand my potatoes would start looking pretty attractive. Or if we started valueing the land and started farming sustainably then my hand grown potatoes would become the norm not just a product for a wealthy elite.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Bagged salads

Heres something interesting i came across today. It covers the whole salad industry and provides some pretty good reasons to grow your own lettuce.

full text at

Bagged salads did not exist before 1992. Now two thirds of households buy
them regularly. The value of the UK salad vegetable market grew by 90 per cent
between 1992 and 2002. By 2002 it was worth £1.25 billion – more than the total
value of the sliced bread or breakfast cereal markets. This does not mean we are
eating 90 per cent more salad; volumes have grown only by 18 per cent over the
same period; just that the food industry has found ways to make much more money
out of salad.

Modified-atmosphere packaging (MAP) can extend the shelf life of prepared salad by more than 50 per cent, making it possible for supermarkets to sell washed and bagged salad from around the world. Lettuce and salad leaves are harvested from fields in the UK, southern Europe or the US one day, and reach a packing house either the same day or, if imported, a day or two later. The salad is cut or separated out into individual leaves by gangs of workers, then washed in chlorine, dried and sorted before being packaged in pillows of plastic in which the normal levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide have been altered. Typically in MAP, the oxygen is reduced from 21 per cent to 3 per cent and the CO2 levels correspondingly raised. This slows any visible deterioration or discolouring. The salad is then trucked to a supermarket’s distribution centre, where it will be dispatched for delivery to individual stores. MAP keeps it looking fresh for up to 10 days. Some lettuces imported from the US can be kept fresh for up to a month. Unfortunately, research published in 2003 in the British Journal of Nutrition suggested that MAP might actually destroy many of the vital nutrients in salad. The research detailed an experiment conducted at the Rome Institute of Food and Nutrition. Scientists took lettuce grown by a cooperative and gave it to volunteers to eat on the day it was harvested.

Lettuce from the same source was then given to volunteers to eat after it had been packed in MAP straight after harvesting and stored for three days. Blood samples from the two groups were analysed after they had eaten the salad.

The researchers noted that several antioxidant nutrients (which protect against ageing, degenerative disease and cancer) such as vitamin C, vitamin E, polyphenols and other micro-nutrients, seemed to be lost in the MAP process. The volunteers who had eaten the fresh lettuce showed an increase in antioxidant levels in their blood, but those who had eaten lettuce stored for three days in MAP showed no increase in antioxidant levels.

When the results of this trial were published, they provoked a defensive debate among packers in the UK. Jon Fielder, director of Waterwise – a company that sells ozone-based disinfecting systems to salad packers, wrote to the trade magazine The Grocer, saying that it couldn’t be the MAP that was responsible for destroying nutrients. Fielder blamed the nutrient depletion on the use of chlorine, an oxidising disinfectant, in the washing of salads. The leaves used by most UK packaged salad producers are immersed in a water-chlorine mixture. The chlorine level is usually maintained at a minimum of 50 milligrams per litre; that’s 20 times higher than in the average swimming pool.

Chlorine washes leave surface residues of chlorinated compounds on lettuce, and because of this the process is banned in organic production. Some chlorinated compounds are known to be cancer-causing, but there appears to be little research on those left on foods treated with high doses of chlorine; the process having evolved in an ad hoc way.

As well as disinfecting out bugs, they disinfect out the taste of fresh leaves, as anyone who has eaten salad straight from the garden knows,’